When my friend Melissa, a serious organic gardener in Taos, New Mexico, came to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, six years ago, she wasn’t interested in rushing to see the usual sights. Yes, the Jardin and Parroquia, the Instituto and Bellas Artes, the Biblioteca and Fabrica la Aurora (and so much more!) were all worth seeing, Melissa knew. But at the top of her list, the must-see-first-and-above-all-else, was the Vía Orgánica farm and ranch in the beautiful Jalpa Valley, just a half-hour’s drive outside of town.
Somehow Melissa knew what I didn’t know — even though I’d been living in San Miguel for over a year by then – that, as their website states, the Rancho Ecológico de Vía Orgánica is “an educational model in regenerative organic agricultural production and sustainable living” that serves as a training center and network for farmers, families and activists worldwide. (www.viaorganica.org )
That visit to the Vía Orgánica ranch, in November 2016, was my first. And this weekend was my second. What immense improvements they’ve made in the intervening years! Melissa and everyone else who hasn’t been there in a while – as well, of course, as those who’ve never been — should make a point of going as soon as possible.
This visit was an outing with the San Miguel de Allende chapter of the International Watercolor Society (IWS), led by local artist and teacher Linda Whynman. Since last November, thanks to Linda’s and others’ efforts, San Miguel has been a branch of IWS’s “Globe Art Network,” which has more than one hundred branches throughout the world. And this coming November the IWS Plein Air Festival will be held in San Miguel for the first time. “Spots are filling fast,” Linda says, “so if you plan to register, do so quickly!” (Go to IWSSMA.org for more information.)
Our group of ten fanned out on the glorious grounds of the ranch to do plein air (French for “open air”) paintings of the scenes and vistas that spoke to us individually. Here are some photos of our day together:
Then we gathered together at a lovely harvest table for a delicious farm-to-table lunch at the Vía Orgánica restaurant, which prides itself on serving local, natural and organic dishes, each accompanied by a fresh salad harvested minutes before from their gardens.
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~ If you’re in the area and are interested in joining SMA’s IWS group and learning about the many benefits of membership, contact Linda Whynman, one of the local founders, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
~ If you live elsewhere in the world, go to the International Watercolor Society’s website to learn about the IWS group nearest you (https://iwsglobe.org/about-us/ ).
~ If you’d like to learn more about plein air landscape watercolor painting, be sure to watch British artist Oliver Pyle’s excellent instructional videos on YouTube, such as this recent one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHZK1enVdXc .